Thanks to chef and all-round food hero Ben Tunnicliffe, who came to review this event for Cornwall Life. Here's what he thought of Sunday Lunch, Woodfired Canteen style...
The plan for this event couldn’t have been more up my street. Woodfired Canteen’s Lazy Smoky Sundays are relaxed family affairs, with flavour-drenched food cooked over outside grills and served to communal tables in stunning settings. The event at Heligan Gardens was a blueprint for a whole programme of Lazy Smoky Sundays, which will be popping up all year round in various offbeat locations across Cornwall and beyond (if you know of a venue which would be interested in hosting an event like this, why not get in touch with the Woodfired Canteen team?)
As well as great food and warm hospitality, Woodfired Canteen founders Ben and Sam Quinn always bring something extra to the party, for example collaborating with a special producer (award-winning Secret Orchard Cider in this case) and including a storytelling element to complete the experience. As a guest at one of their events you can’t help but get wrapped up in that story, especially when it’s told by the likes of Sir Tim Smit - but more on that in a moment…
We arrived at Heligan (admission to the gardens was included in the price) and after a stroll made our way to a secluded grassy enclave sheltered by shrubs, where a communal table for around 60 guests had been laid. The cider bar was busy, and families were milling about and relaxing in the sunshine.
A promising aroma came from the grills, where Ben and his team of chefs were charring onions and mussels doused in cider. It wasn’t long before an orderly queue formed and plates of the tasty starter were being enjoyed along with a bottle or two of the cider itself. Secret Orchard Cider is an award-winning artisan product made in small batches by two friends, who source their apples from orchards rich in biodiversity in Somerset and Cornwall. I loved the medium – it was smooth and balanced, with notes of honey and spiced apple. Mussels and cider is a classic combination and the added element of the smoky flavour was delicious. Shellfish is such an easy thing to BBQ – just try it!
Having gathered around the long table, it was time for a surprise. Tim Smit, who rediscovered the overgrown gardens at Heligan and reopened them 25 years ago (followed some years later by The Eden Project) was there to welcome us, and to talk a little bit about the journey of some of the food we were eating from soil to plate. Broad beans, potatoes, raspberries and gooseberries had all been picked from the estate’s kitchen gardens for the meal, and Tim spoke about the importance of growing our own food and not letting those horticultural skills die with the older generation.
Food for thought, especially when followed by such a feast of seasonal treats. The main course was a perfect summertime take on a roast dinner, with tender chicken, loads of colourful fresh vegetables and ‘old bread’ to mop up all those lovely juices. Pudding was simple but spot-on, and by the time it arrived we were all sitting on the grass letting the kids run free. The format was perfect for families and made for a stress-free, relaxing day. Look out for future Lazy Smoky Sundays – if you’re a food-loving family you’ll be in for a treat.
Thanks Ben - see you soon!